AP Photo/Richard Lipski
Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder waves to fans before an NFL football preseason game against the New England Patriots in Landover, Md., Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Richard Lipski)

Is Dan Snyder a Billionaire Bully? Redskins Owner's Behavior Fits the Pattern


The Washington Redskins organization and its owner Dan Snyder have been trying to quash opposition to its name from Native Americans who condemn it as a harmful slur. Distracting moves like the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation and misinformation from RedskinsFacts.org are pretty devious public-relations tactics, but in an article posted to the Psychology Today website, a pair of experts have said there's more to it than PR. What the Redskins and Snyder are engaging in, they say, amounts to bullying of Native Americans, including their children.

“There are remarkable similarities between the NFL’s behavior and how bullying is defined in psychological research,” says Dr. Mitchell J. Prinstein, the John Van Seters Distinguished Professor of Psychology at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Prinstein, one of the leading experts on peer relations, adds that "A schoolyard bully exerts force towards a passive victim in ways that make them feel unequal. Bullying also is typically used to marginalize a person (or group of people) to damage their relationships or social standing."

Prinstein's analysis appears in a Psychology Today report by Dr. Michael Friedman entitled "The NFL is Teaching Us How To Bully Native American Children."

October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, an effort that Friedman and Prinstein feel is undermined by the existence of the Redskins name and imagery. "Research demonstrates that children often learn bullying behavior by witnessing adults’ use of aggressive behavior without sanctions," says Prinstein. "Using a racial slur or propagating offensive images towards Native Americans not only tells kids that it is acceptable to demean this group, but that similar behavior toward anyone likely would be acceptable. Most states currently have adopted anti-bullying legislation within public schools to promote empathy and respect among youth. It is unfortunate that this work may essentially be undone each time children turn on the TV to watch football."

The last two weeks have not been good ones for the NFL, with headline news about domestic abuse and child abuse by players. The league and teams have demonstrated they'll do the wrong thing first, erring on the side of business-as-usual, before doing the right thing when public outcry demands it. In July, the league agreed to settle a suit brought by more than 4,500 former players seeking resolution for concussion-related claims. Some of the players bringing the suit, who may be facing conditions including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's Diseases, accused the league of fraud.   

The NFL isn't good at heeding warnings from experts, and when it does take action, it often doesn't go far enough. Here, the league is being warned about a problem that goes beyond wins, losses and ticket sales. How will Snyder, Commissioner Roger Goodell, and the rest of the organization react? Will they give the expertise of Prinstein and Friedman legitimate consideration—or merely wait in the parking lot to give these uppity science guys a noogie?

Later in the Psychology Today article, Friedman suggests a bullying public-relations "playbook" that Snyder, the Redskins, and by extension the NFL, are following. The three methods he mentions are: 1) reframing the name as an honoring term, rather than a denigrating one, 2) disregarding protests from Native groups and individuals, and 3) trivilalizing the discussion by saying Indian country has "more important" things to tackle.


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Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
Great article, unfortunately you're preaching to the choir here. Why doesn't this issue see more light from big name reporters . . . oh yeah, everyone is too busy worried about Ebola and ISIS. What can we do besides persevere?

tmsyr11's picture
Submitted by tmsyr11 on
Definitively, the world-globe is bursting at the seams and understandably, there are priorities involved.

tmsyr11's picture
Submitted by tmsyr11 on
Definitively, the world-globe is bursting at the seams and understandably, there are priorities involved.